Game Number two of the season series between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Illinois Fighting Ilini rolls on tomorrow night on ESPN/ESPN3 at 7 PM ET. The Buckeyes look to put two losses in their last three games behind them.
Meanwhile, the struggling Illini look to a repeat performance from Brandon Paul the last time these two teams met. After a in depth look at Bruce Weber’s fighting Illini earlier in the year, It’s time to get you updated on what’s happening lately.
It’s Ugly in Urbana:
For Buckeye fans squirming in their seats the last few weeks, remember that at this point of the year, Illinois fans have become accustomed to long, drawn out losing streaks at the end of the season.
Head coach Bruce Weber is yet again on the hot seat, after his squad has lost 8 of the last nine ballgames since beating Ohio State in heroic fashion earlier this season. Their only win was a one point squeaker against Michigan State. Since that point, the Spartans have shot to the top of the conference standings, while the Orange and Blue are competing with Penn State and Nebraska for last place in the conference.
Of course, by definition, you’re not really fighting for it when you lose to Nebraska by 23. A continuing sign that the wheels are falling off in Urbana. In Lincoln, the Illini were statistically out of competition with 9:30 to go in the ballgame.
The Buckeyes and Illini collided in Urbana-Champaign in one of the toughest matchups the Buckeyes had faced all season. The Buckeyes demonstrated that they may be the real deal, coming back from eight down in the second half to beat the Illini 73-68 away from the friendly confines of Value City Arena. The Bucks rode Jared Sullinger’s 27 points and 16 rebounds to the tough fought win, his ninth double double for the season.
Illinois started out of the gate fast and strong. The Illini began with a tough man defense and did not commit to the double team of Sullinger except when Jared possessed the ball below the basket. The strategy allowed the Illini to be aggressive in all other phases of defense and open up a quick lead by forcing turnovers. The Bucks didn’t stay down long, though, finding second chance points in the paint and a long three from Diebler to regain the lead.
The defense on the other end of the court was a tough nut for the Illini to crack. Several times the Buckeyes forced turnovers after forcing Illinois to run 30 seconds off the shot clock. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time until Illinois figured out how to work around the OSU help defense. With some clever passing, the Illini were able to find open looks from outside. Worse yet, they managed to get the ball down low to Jereme Richmond who nearly made it to double digits while the Buckeyes struggled to figure out how to defend him.